Realme 8 Pro review: Starry-eyed 108MP camera wonder

But does it beat the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max?

Realme 8 Pro review, Realme 8 Pro
At Rs 17,999, the 8 Pro is the most affordable 108MP camera-toting phone in the Indian market today. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The Realme 7 Pro was one of the most value for money midrange phones to launch last year. It was a story of refinement, which is why even though it was just another souped-up Realme 6 Pro, it felt solid. As if like clockwork, Realme has replaced it with the Realme 8 Pro, barely six months later, and it’s safe to say that the song remains the same. Think of it as a Realme 7 Pro Plus.

The big new update is the 108MP primary camera. Everything else seems to revolve around it. But while the Realme 7 Pro’s marquee feature, 65W fast charging, remains unbeaten to this day, the Realme 8 Pro is getting some stiff competition from another 108MP camera-toting phone called the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max. Not only does Xiaomi have the first-mover advantage, it also has a very competitive product backing it.

Also Read | Realme on bringing 108MP camera to masses, undercutting competition, Make in India plans and first flagship store  

Before diving into this review, let’s get one thing out of the way first. This might just end up being a Realme 8 Pro versus Redmi Note 10 Pro Max comparison piece through-and-through. But I am sure that if you’ve been keeping track, this is exactly what you came here for.

Starry-eyed wonder

Realme 8 Pro review, Realme 8 Pro
The 8 Pro is only the second phone under Rs 20,000 to come with a high-resolution 108MP camera. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The Realme 7 Pro was surprisingly minimalist for a Realme phone. It looked sober, elegant yet it was eye-catching in the nicest ways possible. This was especially true about the phone’s sun-kissed leather variant (yes, that’s exactly what Realme called it).

With the 8 Pro, Realme has gone back to being, well, Realme. The new phone is unapologetically bold, brave even, with the brand’s “dare to leap” motto literally plastered on to its back. It is huge and glossy, so it stands out even more so than the Realme branding itself. And unlike in the past, this isn’t limited to some special edition.  You can (only) choose to accentuate it even further, as one of the phone’s variants can even glow in the dark. I guess the point here is, it is all very intentional. It is a leap of faith.

Should you be willing to buy into this theatric, the rest of the phone is pretty to look at and a pleasure to hold and behold. It comes in blue, black and yellow. It is all plastic but like all Realme phones before it, including the 7 Pro (which was also all plastic by the way), it is built well. The panel on the back has a grainy matte finish, as if Realme has sprinkled a layer of pixie dust all over it. Not only does this bode well for ergonomics, but it also helps keep a check on smudge and fingerprints. The camera aesthetics are, again, completely in sync with the whole space-inspired styling – though they jut out quite a bit causing the phone to wobble on a surface.

Realme 8 Pro review, Realme 8 Pro
The 108MP camera in the 8 Pro is also capable of shooting 3x lossless zoom photos. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Next to that “trippy” design scheme, the other big highlight of the 8 Pro is its razer-sharp profile. At 176 grams and 8.1mm, it is even thinner and lighter than the 7 Pro. It is probably one of the thinnest and lightest phones in the market today. Despite that, there is no weird flex. If anything, the 8 Pro does not feel like it costs so low. Sadly, there is no degree of protection against dust or water like some of its competition like Xiaomi is offering.

Undercutting Xiaomi

The 8 Pro is only the second phone under Rs 20,000 to come with a high-resolution 108MP camera. Xiaomi may have launched the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max first, but Realme has gone ahead and undercut it by pricing the 8 Pro more aggressively. At Rs 17,999, the 8 Pro is the most affordable 108MP camera-toting phone in the Indian market today (that is Rs 1,000 cheaper than the Note 10 Pro Max), if you are into that sort of thing. For me, the bigger deal is that Realme’s phone gives you double the storage at a lesser price.

Realme is using the same Samsung ISOCELL HM2 1/1.52-inch sensor with 0.7µm pixels in the 8 Pro as Xiaomi. This is paired with a slightly larger 26mm f/1.88 aperture lens (f/1.9 in Note 10 Pro Max). On a pure hardware level, both phones appear to be stacked similarly. The real differences come by way of software and tuning. This is where the 8 Pro holds an edge, ever so slightly. Realme also offers a ton of extras including UIS Video Stabilisation, Starry Mode (akin to astrophotography), and Tilt-shift (to simulate a miniature world by selective bokeh), alongside returning features like Chroma Boost and AI Colour Portrait.

Realme 8 Pro review, Realme 8 Pro
Realme offers a ton of extras including UIS Video Stabilisation, Starry Mode, and Tilt-shift. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Straight off the bat, the 8 Pro captures pleasing – if a little too contrasty – photos in good lighting with good amount of detail and wide dynamic range. Unless you’re zooming in and pixel-peeping, you will have absolutely no complaints with these 12MP default photos. There are very few differences when you compare these photos with those shot with the Note 10 Pro Max, but I have to say, Realme’s software tuning is a tad more mature without going overboard with both colours and sharpening. The results are a little more balanced as a result. The real differences start to appear under low light. The 8 Pro captures slightly more detail (at the expense of some noise) in such scenarios. Night mode or nightscape photos from the 8 Pro are also slightly brighter (at the expense of detail) but you must be very patient since shutter speed goes for a toss in such cases resulting in blurry shots most of the time.

The 108MP camera in the 8 Pro is also capable of shooting 3x lossless zoom photos – this works surprising well considering there is no dedicated telephoto camera here.

Realme 8 Pro review, Realme 8 Pro
Realme is using the same Samsung ISOCELL HM2 sensor in the 8 Pro as Xiaomi. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

There are three other cameras in the 8 Pro including an 8MP ultra-wide-angle, 2MP macro and another 2MP B&W depth camera – lifted as is from the 7 Pro. These are barely serviceable.

As for video recording, the phone does well at 1080p@30fps, even more so than the Note 10 Pro Max with more detail, wider dynamic range and mostly true to source colours. Two different levels of gyro-based stabilisation including UIS Video Stabilisation and UIS Max Video Stabilisation to simulate a “gimbal-effect” though switching between them can be cumbersome since not every setting is available at every resolution. The 8 Pro can shoot up to 4K@30fps but there is obviously no stabilisation at this setting.

The 16MP front camera in the 8 Pro (a downgrade from the 32MP in the 7 Pro) captures good-quality selfies across lighting scenarios if at the cost of resolved detail.

Realme 8 Pro “The Phone”

Now that we have established that the 8 Pro kind of, sort of lives up to its 108MP camera hype, it is time to find out how good it is as a regular smartphone. It is good, as expected, since it is not all that different from the 7 Pro.

It has the same 6.4-inch FHD+ Super AMOLED display as the 7 Pro though Realme claims it has bumped up the brightness up to 1000nits (there is no HDR support). The display gets nice and bright, shows punchy colours and viewing angles are also quite good. I do have a couple of concerns. The in-display fingerprint reader isn’t the most accurate and there is no screen protection, at least none that is advertised (7 Pro came with Corning Gorilla Glass 3).

Realme 8 Pro review, Realme 8 Pro
The 8 Pro has a Super AMOLED display with 60Hz refresh rate. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Core hardware is also being carried forward from the 7 Pro and while it may not seem like a huge deal, it is surely a bummer that Realme has used the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 720G processor now three generations in a row (the 6 Pro also had the same chipset) when it could have tweaked things a bit. The Snapdragon 732G is not all that different from it, but at least Xiaomi can sell it on face value as something new. By the way, the Note 10 Pro Max could have also done with more powerful hardware. But it is what it is.

If you’re not someone keeping tabs on cores and clock speeds, I am happy to report that there is nothing inherently wrong with the 8 Pro. It can be a reliable daily driver that can also play some demanding games every now and then at medium and low settings. Realme has also done well with software, which is Android 11-based Realme UI 2.0 in the 8 Pro. Even though it is starting to look more and more like Oppo’s software (which is not surprising since both share the same base) each day, Realme’s thoughtful customisation chops add another level of individuality to the equation. That everything is well optimised for the most part is another icing on the cake. I have been particularly impressed with Realme’s update push. My review unit is already on the April security patch – I can’t say the same for the Note 10 Pro Max.

Realme 8 Pro review, Realme 8 Pro
The 8 Pro is a pretty good phone, but it is a high-quality 108MP camera phone first. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Rounding off the package is a 4,500mAh battery with 50W fast charging. Battery life is fantastic and even though the 8 Pro does not charge as fast as the 7 Pro (65W), Realme still holds the title of the fastest charging phone under Rs 20,000.

The 8 Pro is a 4G phone with dual-SIM support. Realme plans to launch a 5G version soon.

Should you buy the Realme 8 Pro?

On a spec-to-spec basis, the Note 10 Pro Max is easily the most feature-packed phone at its price point today. It has a premium glass design, 120Hz Super AMOLED display with Corning Gorilla Glass 5 protection and HDR10 support, Snapdragon 732G processor, versatile and capable cameras, 5,020mAh battery, dual stereo speakers with Hi-Res audio support, IP52 splash resistance, IR blaster, and excellent haptics. No other phone, including the Realme 8 Pro comes close.

Also Read | Redmi Note 10 Pro Max review: Setting a new benchmark for value for money

With the 8 Pro, Realme’s big focus was the 108MP camera and making it as accessible as possible and it has achieved that. The thing about Realme, at this point of time especially is that it has a whole host of products under Rs 20,000 and each has its own selling point. The 8 Pro is a pretty good phone, but it is a high-quality 108MP camera phone first and everything else later. The Note 10 Pro Max has a camera system that can stand toe to toe with it (in some areas, it is also better) while also offering a benchmark setting value in every perceivable area that none in the industry can today so much so that even Xiaomi may find it difficult to replicate it anytime soon.

Pros: Capable 108MP camera, Super AMOLED display, Good performance, Up-to-date software, Excellent battery life with 50W fast charging

Cons: Redmi Note 10 Pro/Pro Max offers more value

Get live Share Market updates and latest India News and business news on Financial Express. Download Financial Express App for latest business news.

First published on: 05-04-2021 at 19:45 IST